40 Years Later: Remembering the Olympic Center Groundbreaking and Looking Ahead

LAKE PLACID, NY - The date was April 21, 1977 - work on the Olympic Center in Lake Placid had officially begun.

“I was a child when this was being born and I have such vivid memories,” said Bill Gilbane III.

Gilbane’s family’s business, Gilbane Building Company, was the sole contractor for the new facilities, including the Herb Brooks Arena, home of the “Miracle on Ice” game.

The job included fourteen projects across 20 miles, including housing, arenas, ski jumps, luge run, speed skating rink and a press center.

“There was something when you walked into the venue, you could feel it,” said Gilbane, who is now Senior Vice President of the company. “It's so validating to see what this investment has paid off for the state of New York. Those economic numbers are hard to argue with."

According to another member of the Gilbane team, the state of New York invested $40 million into the project. The federal government invested $150 million.

“Unemployment rate in Essex County dropped in the first 13 months of construction from 17% to 7.1%. And one of the greatest things, 82.6% of  the construction workforce came from within 90 miles of Lake Placid,” said Brian Akley, Sr. Business Development Manager at Gilbane Building Company.

The Lake Placid Olympic venues are maintained better than other sites that have crumbled across the world.

That’s why they can still be used as training grounds for high caliber athletes and international events.

“Looking forward, you can not help but feel optimistic due in a large part to the financial support and the statewide support of tourism by Governor Andrew Cuomo,” said Dennis Allen, Olympic Center Manager, New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority. “The state has provided us with capital money that allows our venues to stay current with new lifts, new facilities, new scoreboards, improved snowmaking and much more."

What about another Olympic bid?

Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall remembers a moment nine years ago when he spoke with the president of the International Olympic Committee.

“‘So Mr. Mayor, is Lake Placid bidding again for the Winter Olympics?',” the mayor says he was asked. “And I looked at him, and I put my hand over my heart and I said 'Your Honor, Lake Placid in their heart is always bidding. The economics of the game is getting tougher.'"

While the Olympic Games in Lake Placid 37 years ago cost a few hundred million dollars, the most recent Winter Games, in Sochi in 2014, is said to have cost $50 billion.

For now, the mayor says, the city has signed or is planning on signing letters of intent for three international winter events, including the Special Olympics World Winter Games in 2021.

“The region, the district around us has the capacity that it needs to accommodate them, both for lodging and for venue facility,” said Mayor Randall.

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